This is ‘Billy’. He is 15. He allowed me to post this photo of him from a visit to the local animal centre yesterday.
This is one of my favourite photos. It means so much. A couple of months ago, Billy was in a bad, dark space where no young person (or adult for that matter) should be. Desperate, lashing out at things and people, horizons closed. Not all his problems have gone yet but things have turned …
Yesterday (Halloween), he got on to the dressing up act (yes, I too walked around the school and public with a fake knife and blood to my head), allowed his face to be painted, went in public with it, played with animals at the centre and relished the company of a little weero on his head and shoulders with a SMILE on his face. This term, we are deliberately working on strategies to express himself – writing, drawing, music … whatever! He’s in a better place, albeit precarious for many reasons. But he is beginning to flourish! Little by little.
Billy also saw a crocodile for the first time yesterday. A few other kids saw kangaroos (!!), eagles, snakes, lizards for the first time. In Australia for crying out loud – they are everywhere! But they are ‘everywhere’ if your world expands beyond your couch, your mate’s couch and local shopping centre. If you have been taken places by your family, shown, read, discussed, laughed about them. And they are the things we need to keep in mind and never assume.
Today, we did not assume that all our students would automatically know what Melbourne Cup is (for good and bad) in the fabric of the broader society, beyond the limited circles many move in. At the spur of the moment, we turned half the day into a Melbourne Cup day. Kids helped make the snacks and fruit punch (non-alcoholic …). We rigged up the big screen and watched the big race via live stream from Melbourne. A bunch of kids started making hats. Some cracked jokes about horses. Some came up with and others answered questions about horse racing. We sat around our big shed and watched the race. Relaxed, spontaneous, caring, as a community, a family of a kind.
After the race, I got sprung by a bunch of kids and sprayed with foam streamers while they were singing Happy Birthday (to me, very important number now ). Priceless!
Yesterday, I was quizzed by a person filling out a funding application about kids’ progress.
Me: ‘They have hugely improved their social skills. Confidence and maturity have grown, communication has come along in leaps and bounds.”
Person: “OK that’s fine. What about learning outcomes?”
Enough to make anyone who knows what makes learning go and who has worked with young people (especially those ‘at risk’ ones …) blood boil. But I did reply politely
Or as my good friend Ira would say: Evaluate that!